Archive (Reagan Library)

Cold War: State Department telegram to US NATO Embassies (British nuclear testing policy) [declassified 2000]

Document type: Declassified documents
Venue: Washington
Source: Reagan Library: Executive Secretariat NSC Head of State File
Editorial comments: Despatched 0038 GMT 2 Jun 1988; declassified 30 June 2000. The document was filed with Thatcher-Reagan correspondence in the Head of State File.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 402 words
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), MT contacts with Ronald Reagan

Declassified S98-101#303
By dIb, NARA, Date 6/30/00

FM SECSTATE Washington D.C.



Secret entire text.

2. UK Embassy official Stephen Band called on PM DAS Roger Harrison May 27, 1988 to present the outline of what he called a new public diplomacy policy [sic] on British nuclear testing. He provided a UK Secret paper (para 4 below), noting that the first two points were new.

3. Band noted that the UK would not be making the policy change public now, but would do so in the near future in a low-key fashion in response to a Parliamentary Question. In the meantime, the British would appreciate it if we did not mention their change of policy. Band said that Defense Minister Younger had passed the same information to Secretary Carlucci May 26 at NATO Defense Ministers meeting.

4. Begin text of UK paper:
-- For the forseeable future the United Kingdom’s security will depend on deterrence based in part on the possession of nuclear weapons.
-- That will mean a continuing requirement to conduct underground nuclear tests and to ensure that our nuclear weapons remain effective and up to date.
-- We hope that the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty and the Threshold Test Ban Treaty will be ratified soon. Further step [sic] to limit tests will then have to be considered.
-- But serious technical problems of verification remain. As thresholds are reduced, verification becomes more important but also more difficult.
--“ [sic] A comprehensive test ban remains a long term goal. Progress will be made only by a step-by-step approach. This must take account of technical advances on verification as well as progress elsewhere in arms control and the attitude of other states. End text.

5. Comment: a possible HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] shift in public position on nuclear testing policy has been discussed with USG [United States Government] for two years. Decreased focus on verification problems and increased emphasis on security requirements for continued testing brings UK policy close to USG public position.